Hockey World Cup 2023: India awaits England test after Spain success
Hockey World Cup 2023: India will be squaring off against England in its next contest in Rourkela on Sunday. Following the triumph against Spain, the Men in Blue will have its first real test against the Three Lions.
A perfect start to its campaign with a dominant win over Spain notwithstanding, India will face a stern test when it takes on an equally impressive England in its second group game of the 2023 FIH Men's Hockey World Cup at the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela on Sunday. India outclassed Spain 2-0 with a near-flawless show in its opening Group D contest on Friday at the brand-new venue, but England is an equally challenging side, if not more. The home team cannot drop the intensity and quality it showed against Spain, as England, too, is on a high after a 5-0 thrashing of Wales in its opener.
Egged on by a packed crowd at the 21,000-capacity Birsa Munda Stadium, India showcased superb attacking hockey in the first two quarters. It scored through local hero Amit Rohidas from a penalty corner before Hardik Singh doubled the lead with a brilliant solo effort. Skipper Harmanpreet Singh and his deputy Rohidas then produced a defensive masterclass -- which impressed head coach Graham Reid.
Harmanpreet and Co. would look to dish out another strong defensive show against England, who scored at least one goal each in all four quarters. "It is good to get the first game. The defensive effort was pleasing, and we handled the ball very well. There weren't too many people who did not play well. That is what you need to win a World Cup. We need to continue it in the next game," Reid said.
"The boys were able to take the ball out of the goal. We also got in front a lot, and that was very important. We were first with the ball, which makes a lot of difference in this sort of game," added Reif. Veteran PR Sreejesh and Krishan Bahadur Pathak were also in their element in front of the Indian goal. Still, their English counterpart Oliver Payne was no less as he thwarted some determined efforts from the Welshmen, especially in the final quarter.
The only weakness of the Indians was penalty corners, as they could not directly convert any of the five they secured against Spain. Harmanpreet, the best player and top team scorer in almost every tournament in recent years, had an off day by his high standards, as he missed a penalty stroke besides failing to find the target from penalty corners.
Harmanpreet admitted his below-par show after the match and will be looking to make amends against England. Not being able to convert penalty corners can cost India dears against a team like England. The Indian players will also have to be cautious about getting into the referee's book as they had to play the significant part of the final quarter without Abhishek, who got a yellow card for a foul.
A win against England is essential as that will take India one step closer to the quarterfinals. The hosts will fancy their chances against Wales, the lowest ranked side in the group at 15th, to top the pool, considered a group of death. England is one rung above India at fifth in world rankings, and there is little to differentiate between the two sides in the past year and historically.
Last year, the two sides played three matches against each other with their previous game, played at the 2022 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Birmingham, ending in a 4-4 draw. They played out a 3-3 draw in the first leg of the FIH Pro League before India won 4-3 in the second, both games played in April.
Nick Bandurak, the top scorer in the 2022 CWG with 11 goals, was on target against Wales and Phil Roper, another prolific player in Birmingham. England scored three field goals, the third from Nicholas Park, while Liam Ansell struck twice from penalty corners. Historically, India had won 10 matches against seven of England, while four games ended in draws. Spain will play Wales in another Group D contest at the same venue on Sunday.
India: Abhishek, Surender Kumar, Manpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh (c), Lalit Upadhyay, Krishan Pathak (gk), Nilam Sanjeep Xess, PR Sreejesh (gk), Nilakanta Sharma, Shamsher Singh, Varun Kumar, Akashdeep Singh, Amit Rohidas (vc), Vivek Sagar Prasad and Sukhjeet Singh.
England: David Ames (c), James Albery, Liam Ansell, Nick Bandurak, Will Calnan, David Condon, David Goodfield, Harry Martin, James Mazarelo, Nick Park, Ollie Payne (gk), Phil Roper, Scott Rushmere, Liam Sanford, Tom Sorsby, Zach Wallace, Jack Waller and Sam Ward.
Date and day: January 15, 2023 (Sunday)
Venue: Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium, Rourkela
Time: 7 PM (IST)
Where to watch (TV): Star Sports Select 2 and other Star Sports regional language channels - Also available in HD
Where to watch (Online): Hotstar
(With inputs from PTI)